One of the most difficult struggles faced by manufacturers of computers and PDA-type devices is that of form and function versus cost to manufacture. In today’s technology market, this struggle is starting to show itself in the devices that are being introduced at a furious pace.  

A recent posting in Computerworld notes that “of the tiny laptops available today, eight out of 10 have LCD screens between 10 inches and 11.6 inches in size. That is up from seven out of 10 laptops four months earlier.”

To those who have become accustomed to the tiny screens on Blackberries, iPhones and other devices, this may be a big yawn. On the other hand—for those of us who reach for the nuclear-strength reading glasses at the mere thought of a screen that small—this is welcome news.  

In the world of technology, it is a given that smaller devices are more portable, thus more desirable. It is also a given that as devices decrease in size, their retail prices also shrink, presumably because less raw material is involved in their manufacture.

Indeed, as the Computerworld piece points out, “larger screen sizes, such as 11.1 inch or 11.6-inch models, are more expensive and are produced by fewer vendors.”  The article is quick to add, however, that about one in five of all laptops have screens between 10.4 inches and 11.9 inches in size.  

Why this counterintuitive trend? The answer lies in the demographics of those who use laptops and other devices. Like it or not, Baby Boomers still represent the lion’s share of the buying market, and it seems evident that at least some manufacturers are realizing that having a larger screen that can display larger print and images is a competitive advantage. Boomers are now well past the age of 40, and in case you didn’t know it, 40 is the age when many of us with otherwise eagle-like eyesight need to use those magnifying glasses that you see perched on the ends of our noses in order to see anything within two feet of our faces.  

And why is this happening? It’s called presbyopia, and it occurs because the lenses in the eyes have aged to the point where they no longer flex as easily as they once did. The result is that it is more difficult to see anything at close range, especially details such as small letters. Since this is a fairly widespread phenomenon among the group with the most buying power, device makers are well advised to keep this in mind, and some obviously have.  

Larger displays are also good news for the insurance industry in terms of our own demographics. While we certainly have our fair share of young lions and lionesses who can spot a dust mote on the edge of a pin with the naked eye, many studies have shown that the primary age range of insurance workers leans more heavily toward the over-40 crowd. Thus we may only see the pin (forget the mote) if you hold it at arm’s length.  

So if I’m a device manufacturer and I have opted to maximize the screen size on my laptops, I would be inclined to trumpet my product’s ease of readability—kind of a nicer way of saying that old geezers won’t have to squint or break out a jeweler’s loupe to see what’s on the display.  

No, it’s not sexy or cutting edge, but it is functional, and that will score big time points with Boomers.

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services. He can be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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